Compassionate Communications in Reputation Management

October 22, 2020

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COVID-19 has had a profound impact on everyone, irrespective of race, gender or geography. This collective experience will change things. Some of these things are more tangible and easier to accept, such as the rapid adoption of online services and digital transformation, while others are much harder to fully understand and will change the way we behave, and ultimately how we will accept the behaviors of those around us.

Many will feel a new vulnerability along with a wider recognition of the instability of some of the foundations that they have long taken for granted. However, on the positive side there has been a collective awakening to core values, whether it’s looking after your friends, family and neighbours, or ensuring that you take care of your local community and environment, which will also impact on perceptions.

We can see this playing out in our research. Against a backdrop of tax subsidies and furloughing, expectations of companies’ behaviors have skyrocketed but skepticism is widespread, as most of those surveyed find it difficult to believe that a company will put societal needs ahead of commercial interests. That said, the opportunity is there for those organisations that seize it.

When companies have reduced executive pay or paid back furlough schemes, there has been a positive response. Similarly, those companies that deliver positive societal benefits that go beyond rhetoric and show actionable change are seeing a discernible positive uplift in their reputation; this matches expectations laid out in FleishmanHillard TRUE Global Intelligence’s COVID-19 Mindset: The Collision of Issues Wave 2: Global Report. The same can be said for the leaders within those organisations, with 42% of global consumers expecting CEOs to show how their companies support the values of their communities, customers and employees.

Those that take a stand with humanity will also be warmly received as lockdown has brought communities closer. It has underscored the need for humane responses, with 41% of global consumers stating they expect leaders to show empathy and compassion for their communities, customers and employees in their words and actions.

Choosing which issues to take a stand on can be complex but, uniquely, the research looked at the difference between those that people cared about and those they expected companies to take a position on. Health, understandably, is front and centre of mind for many, but other key concerns also include the environment, data security and discrimination.

Aligning those issues with areas that a company can authentically communicate on will ultimately be key to having a markedly positive impact on a company’s reputation in this new world.

Read more in FleishmanHillard’s Thinking Allowed – Issue 4 report here.